Carper Statement on New GAO Report Highlighting Shortfalls and Delays of Trump Administration’s Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), released a statement following the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighting how unprepared the Trump Administration has been in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This week, the number of Americans our nation has lost to coronavirus has passed 122,000. Yesterday, the U.S. hit the highest single day total of new infections with nearly 37,000 confirmed cases. And today, 1.5 million more Americans filed for unemployment bringing the total filings over a 14-week period to nearly 47 million. In a world where we, the United States, represent less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we’ve recorded more than 25 percent of the world’s cases and deaths related to coronavirus. Today’s GAO report makes clear that many different aspects of our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis that followed are the reasons we are faring worst in the world. Most importantly, the report also lays bare why more Congressional oversight is needed to ensure the nearly $3 trillion in relief funding that Congress appropriated is getting to the families and small businesses that need it most.

“The GAO report reveals that the Strategic National Stockpile was not adequately equipped to ensure our state governments and frontline workers had the personal protective equipment and medical supplies needed to effectively respond to and prepare for the pandemic. And sadly today, hospitals across the country are still experiencing shortages of critical equipment. The report also found that the Trump Administration’s ‘incomplete and inconsistent’ collection of data related to coronavirus testing has devastated the government’s response, making it difficult to collect, track, and share vital information needed to mitigate the spread of the virus. How can we possibly manage what we can’t measure? The report also shed light into the lack of oversight of the Paycheck Protection Program, which left it vulnerable to fraudulent claims and potentially led to small businesses – that drive our economy and employ millions of people – not receiving the relief they need in a timely way.

“What’s more, we have now learned that the Trump Administration sent more than 1 million economic stimulus checks to deceased people, totaling nearly $1.4 billion in checks. It’s critical Americans get relief quickly, but improper payments to deceased people – especially of this magnitude in the middle of a pandemic – represent serious government waste and a burden to the people who receive them. This particular finding underscores the need for the Senate to take up my bill with Senator Kennedy, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, which would put an end to improper payments like this and save millions of federal dollars.

Today’s findings should serve as a wakeup call. To date, the Trump Administration’s response to the public health and economic crises facing our nation has been woefully inadequate. And as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge and devastate our communities and economy, it’s clear that Democrats and Republicans in Congress must work together to correct course and conduct much-needed oversight.

“In the coming weeks, I will be looking for ways to adopt some of the recommendations GAO has put forth in the report. In the meantime, let’s hold much-needed hearings in Congress to get the answers we need from the Trump Administration. Let’s take up common sense legislation like my bill with Senator Kennedy to prevent improper payments from being sent to deceased people and ensure Americans who find themselves in dire straits are the ones receiving them. And as we work on the next relief package, let’s prioritize critical oversight and accountability measures to prevent some of the widespread failures detailed in today’s report. At a time when new coronavirus cases are on the rise and health care professionals, families, workers, small businesses and states face uncertainty, we must do everything we can to ensure those in charge of putting the public’s safety and interest first are held accountable.”